Fife Creamery – Revitalising the Food Chain
We learn how this family business’s success has been driven by its staff for three generations.
Fife Creamery was founded by John Simpson Snr in 1957. 13 years later John Simpson passed the torch to his son, Jock who led the company for 30 years before handing it to his son, Graeme, the current Managing Director of Fife Creamery, and the man responsible for much of the company’s recent growth.
“From its humble beginnings, back in 1957, packing fresh butter in Methil, Fife, the company has grown into the modern multi-purpose depot that is Fife Creamery today, working out of its headquarters in Kirkcaldy,” explains Steve Appolinari, Sales Director for the firm. “Fife Creamery is a wholesaler with a real difference.”
Fife Creamery started out delivering small prints of fresh butter to retail outlets. As van sales grew and the supply chain extended, the range was stretched. By the early 1980s, Fife’s product offering had outgrown its original large dairy-based range to include delicatessen and fine foods.
“A relentless approach to driving food standards, with the emphasis on continuous innovation, are two of the key drivers behind the business’s success,” Appolinari tells us.
A Proper People Business
When it comes to what makes Fife Creamery stand out, quality is obviously key, but that level of quality does not come from anywhere.
“It’s a proper people business. Staff turnaround is minimal. We have installed a culture of listening into our staff members,” Appolinari says. “That’s not only towards our customers but also working with our supply partners. Our staff have respect at the heart of their activities and this trait comes through in the loyalty and support the business has enjoyed for decades.”
Fife Creamery has also pioneered a range of new industry initiatives, from its distribution strategies to a large number of first-to-market food products. It is a trend that can be traced back to the 1970s when Fife became the first full “Chilled food service provider” in Scotland. The company delivered a plethora of fresh food products, safely, in temperature-controlled vehicles, at a time when other wholesalers took more than a few risks.
“We were the first wholesaler in Scotland to build a chill-to-chill loading bay. We were the first to gain full STS accreditation for our operating systems, and we pioneered the Tiny Tag temperature monitoring system which guarantees temperature readouts on delivered stock 24/7, showing live records of air and product temperatures,” Appolinari recalls.
Challenges Old and New
Fife Creamery has been in business for around 65 years, and in that time the food sector has encountered too many challenges to count. Fife has seen supermarket supply chains and the wholesale sector undergo some major shifts.
But most recently, of course, the company has had to contend with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“If your customer base closes down there’s not a lot you can do,” Appolinari says. “But our involvement and experience in the retail sector led us to pivot the business with a seismic swing. We introduced a new Fresh Butcher meat offering and launched heavily into frozen food. I am delighted to say that with the full backing and the hard work of the team at Fife Creamery, these two enormous changes to our operating systems have not only been established, but in the last year they are already accounting for a substantial amount of new turnover.”
Appolinari is in no doubt as to the reason for that success.
“Make no mistake, we are back to the ‘People Business’ here,” he says. “So many sacrifices and so many committed staff turned this major challenge into a real positive for the business.”
As part of Fife Creamery’s dedication to being a “people business”, the company launched a Training & Demonstration Centre in 2019.
“For as long as I can remember a key feature at Fife Creamery, that our sales team has benefited from, is our Depot tour,” Appolinari says. “It’s an impressive facility and our customers derive a great deal from understanding its internal goings-on, procedures, practices, turn-around of stock etc. But we needed more.”
Fife Creamery works across two specific market sectors – retail and foodservice, and the company was seeing a rise in demand for prepared foods alongside a lack of skilled staff in many of the outlets that its customers operated within. Most noticeably, there was a huge opportunity to be found in the food-to-go sector. Fife Creamery has now launched a new training facility to meet that demand.
“We have a simulated food court environment, fast serve equipment, display cases, refrigeration units and above all, the room for our customers to enhance the skills of their staff,” Appolinari explains. “On these visits, we can provide industry experts who will demonstrate and sample a range of tailored products, depending on the needs of the specific customers. We have our experienced Fife Creamery sales staff who now have a tank full of serious testimonies where other Fife Creamery customers have taken up the challenge and made successful changes to their operations.”
This facility can be used for conferences, presentations, and general group meetings.
“It’s a real one-of-a-kind initiative and it will continue to drive our business forward into the coming years,” Appolinari says.
It is clear Fife Creamery has a strong vision of those coming years. Having come through over six decades of steady growth, expanding its facilities to keep up, Appolinari believes the company is ready for the next six decades.
“With a proven track record for delivering quality food products in Scotland, alongside our strong trading relationships, the new product categories are where much of this new growth will come in the future,” Appolinari says. “I am delighted to say, that despite all of the current industry challenges, we have a dedicated team that can’t wait to share these positive news stories, get more customers along to our facilities and of course, keep our traditional approach at the heart of all we do.”